BANGOR, Maine — Spencer Lavway, 9, of Searsport clutched a plastic container holding his new pet frog close to his chest on Sunday morning at the Northeast Reptile Expo.
Spencer quietly gazed at a table of books and pet owners manuals that might help him learn more about his new amphibian, a white tree frog.
“He wants to have a buddy for his fish,” Spencer’s father, John Lavway, said as others in the crowd milled around a packed room at Bangor Motor Inn & Conference Center.
John said Spencer often looks for frogs during swimming trips to ponds in the summer, but that Spencer’s new frog is more unique and exotic than what he’s used to finding in Maine.
Meanwhile, sisters Meg, 8, and Abby Caron, 9, of Bangor giggled when a vendor handed them a python. They took turns petting the snake, commenting on how smooth it felt.
The girls’ mother, Kathy Caron, said the trip to the expo was “like visiting a zoo” and that she didn’t plan on letting the girls take something home that day.
Both girls said it was their first time holding a snake. Meg said she’d like to have one as a pet, but Abby wasn’t thrilled with that idea.
A childhood fascination with frogs, snakes and lizards carries over into adulthood for many, some of whom turn their appreciation for these creatures into careers.
About 27 vendors — most from New England and many from Maine — attended the expo to share their enthusiasm with excited children and sometimes-hesitant parents.
“Growing up, I’d spend my days catching frogs, snakes and turtles,” said Jasin Chapman, owner of Maine-based Hellbent Reptiles.
Chapman said he wasn’t all that interested in science in school, but since he started breeding snakes, he hasn’t stopped researching biology and genetics, trying to produce more interesting patterns and colors in the snakes.
Tortoises, mice, geckos, chameleons, boa constrictors and pythons were passed around and petted while experienced breeders explained everything from how much the animals eat to the genetics that gave them certain characteristics.
Most animals sell at prices ranging between $200 and $400, while some lizards and snakes go for less and others jump in value to nearly $3,000.
Several vendors sold cockroaches, which are an upgraded menu option because cockroaches are higher in protein and lower in fat than crickets. Cockroaches also live for up to two years and can produce 30 offspring in a month, making them more affordable in the long run.
Christopher MacMillan, the show’s organizer, said the event served as a great representation of the herpetology industry in New England and Maine.
MacMillan said he still likes to take walks through forests and riverbeds, turning over stones to find unique species, during trips to remote locations ranging from Arizona to Jakarta, Indonesia.
A Searsport native who now lives in Powell, Ohio, MacMillan makes his living selling reptiles, turtles and amphibians at shows all over the country and wanted to bring his passion home to Maine. An event he held last fall was so successful that Sunday’s event was planned.